One boat sinks but resident
continues on with daring trip
By NEAL TALBOT
A daring 16-month sailing voyage around the world, that began
in landlocked northwestern Alberta two weeks ago, has gotten off
to a rocky start.
Idlewild expedition leader Ben Gray lost his support boat
Friday after it collided with the front of the 14-tonne main
boat - the Idlewild - and sank in a dangerous stretch of rapids.
Gray's son Kevin, who was using the smaller boat to scout
upriver after the Idlewild hit ground while travelling through
the Peace River's Boyer Rapids, managed to escape unharmed, but
the small boat will be lost for the rest of the journey.
Alice Gray told the Daily-Herald Tribune the two men were
unable to retrieve the capsized support boat after it was swept
downstream and sank in a deep pool of water.
"It was a little bit of a setback losing the support boat,
but they're going to continue on without it," said Gray, who
expects the Idlewild to make it to Fort Chipewyan by today.
"They would have liked to have pulled the boat up, but feared
staying any longer would put them behind schedule."
With the help of nearby residents, a crane, and rising water
levels, the Idlewild was able to continue on its journey. A crew
will be hired to rescue the support boat when water levels begin
The 66-year-old Grande Prairie resident, along with his son,
began a 60,000-kilometre journey that will take them through the
Northwest Territories to Greenland, Africa, Australia, the East
Indies, Japan and Alaska, May 23, near the Dunvegan Bridge -
located 80-km north of Grande Prairie.
Once the Idlewild makes it through the Peace River, it will
travel north through the Northwest Territories' Slave and
Mackenzie Rivers, until reaching the Arctic Ocean. Gray will
then take the Northwest Passage east to Greenland, and sail his
57-foot powerboat south to the Azores.
The boat will then turn east to the African coastline before
settling down for a couple of weeks in Cape Town, South Africa.
It will then sail east to the north coast of Australia, north
to Japan, then sail northwest to Alaska on its way through the
western section of the Northwest Passage and down river to his
"home port" in Dunvegan next August.
If successful in completing the trip, the two men will become
the first sailors to use the Northwest Passage to circle the
The Idlewild is 17 metres long and 3.3 metres wide, has a 55
horsepower motor, holds 100 gallons of fuel, 400 gallons of
water, sleeps four people, has removable wheels that are used
for portaging and is specially designed for its unlikely sailing
Gray says her husband and son will still have to portage the
uninsured half-million dollar boat at least one more time and
face additional river rapids before reaching the Arctic Ocean.
Once in the ocean, they could face additional dangers like
ice fields, shallow reefs, tropical storms and open ocean
Despite all the dangers and the loss of the support boat,
Gray is confident the Idlewild and its crew will make it back to
northern Alberta in one piece.
"While unforeseen things like this happen, I know they are
trained for any circumstance and take all the necessary safety
precautions," said Gray, who is hoping to meet up with the two
in Australia next year.
"Both of them are very careful people and don't take
unnecessary risks, so it's much easier on my nerves knowing they
should make it home just fine."
The Idlewild's travels can be tracked on the web at